Writer and illustrator Chris Riddell has posted on social media pointing out the similarities between John Lewis' Christmas advert and one of his books. Nick Lewis in our Intellectual Property team takes a look at what he'd need to prove to be able to bring a copyright claim. 

The release of the John Lewis Christmas advert has become one of the biggest events in the build-up to Christmas in recent years (arguably overtaking the return of the Coca-Cola truck). From The Bear and the Hare to the Man of the Moon, each ad has been loved by consumers up and down the country.

The star of this year’s ad is Moz the Monster – a blue, fluffy creature who lives under a child’s bed. Instead of being your typical scary monster, Moz is loud and loveable as he quickly becomes the child’s best friend.

However, the retailer has been accused of copying this story-line from a child’s picture book, published by Chris Riddell in 1986, titled ‘Mr Underbed’. There are certainly similarities between the two; Mr Underbed is also a loveable blue monster who rocks the bed and snores loudly.

In response, a spokeswoman for John Lewis has said: 'The story of a big hairy monster under the bed which keeps a child from sleeping is a universal tale which has been told many times over many years…The main thrust of our story is utterly different to Chris Riddell’s'.

The idea of a monster living under a child’s bed certainly isn’t a new one. It’s not clear whether Mr Riddell is accusing John Lewis of copyright infringement. But, if he can establish that the ad has copied a substantial part of Mr Underbed, and there is a link between the two creations, then the retail giant could find itself facing a potential copyright infringement claim.

If Mr Riddell is able to establish that John Lewis is attempting to associate the ad with his picture book from the late 1980s and into the 1990s, then he could potentially bring a passing-off claim. The children of that era are now into their late 20s/early 30s, and if they would link the two works together, then this could suggest that John Lewis are trying to use goodwill associated with the story of Mr Underbed.

All that being said, these types of claims do face challenges. To establish copyright infringement in his idea, Mr Riddell would need to demonstrate that the story portrayed in the advert was substantially the same. As John Lewis have already alluded to, the idea of a monster living under a child’s bed has been told in many different ways, and they’ve told it in their own way in the ad. On the passing-off front, Mr Riddell must show that there’s goodwill associated with his book, in the form of a substantial following.

Mr Riddell may not take things further, but he has definitely stirred things up by calling the retailer out publicly on social media.

To read the rest of this month's newsbytes, please click here